Many new photographers are overwhelmed by all the settings on their camera. But what if you could ignore most of the settings on your camera and just choose one to experiment with? Where would you begin?
I suggest you begin by experimenting with the aperture because this setting has a huge effect on your photos.
Once you know the things Aperture Mode (or Aperture Priority) is perfect for, you’ll have increased your creative possibilities and simplified the camera setting problem.
Here are three things you can do with Aperture Mode.
But first, how to put your camera on Aperture Mode
For most cameras, to put your camera on Aperture Mode you need to turn the dial to A in order to take control of your aperture (Av for Canon).
When you look at the screen on your camera, you’ll notice a number with an F beside it. This is your aperture value. Use the scroller on your camera to change that number. Experiment and see how high and how low you can make that number go.
As we move through the tips, you’ll see how opening or closing your aperture affects your photo. When you’re intentional about setting your aperture, it will drastically change your photo.
1. How to create background blur (or keep the background in focus if you prefer)
Think in terms of opposites for a moment.
Normally, when we take a portrait, we only want the person to be in focus. But when we photograph a landscape, we want the whole photo to be in focus.
I’ll show you how you can use aperture to create background blur for portraits. I’ll also show you the opposite; how to keep the whole scene in focus for landscapes.
The principle is as simple as this: open your aperture for portraits, close it for landscapes.
PS – the technical term for background blur is bokeh (like a bouquet of flowers).
How to achieve better bokeh (background blur)
The first thing I told you about bokeh is that you need to open your aperture all the way. That means that you need to set it to the smallest number possible. That number might be 5.6, 3.5, or even 1.8, depending on your lens.
However, opening your aperture all the way isn’t always enough. So I’ll show you a formula for getting an even better bokeh.
My goal for the following portrait of Batman is to have him in focus with a nice blurry background.
There are four simple steps involved; let’s look at them one at a time.
1. Open the aperture
Now, I opened the aperture all the way, but the building isn’t really out of focus. The back part of the building is out of focus, but the part directly behind Batman is still pretty crisp.
The biggest problem is that he is too close to the background, so the second step will make a huge difference.
2. Bring Batman away from the background
Now the building is out of focus, but let’s make it even more out of focus.
3. Zoom in
So far, I set my lens to its widest angle of 18mm. When I zoom all the way to 55mm, the background will go more out of focus.
As well as blurring the background, zooming in also gave the photo a more compressed look.
Would you like the background to be even more blurry? Is it even possible?
4. Get closer
Yes, it is!
The closer you get to Batman, the more out of focus the background becomes.
For great bokeh just remember:
- Open your aperture
- Step away from the background
- Zoom in
- Get closer
Controlling your background blur is just one of the things Aperture Mode is perfect for. Now let’s see what else it can do.
2. Starburst effect
The starburst effect adds interest to your photos because we don’t normally see this with our eye.
To achieve the starburst effect, it’s as easy as closing your aperture.
The starburst effect is one of the more creative things Aperture Mode is perfect for. Now let’s see one of the biggest problems that Aperture Mode will help solve.
3. Low light photography
One of the biggest problems with dim light is that your photos become blurry from motion.
Photos become blurry because there is not enough light and the camera takes more time to capture the photo. Technically, it’s a slow shutter speed issue.
The important thing to know is that you need to get more light into the camera. You can get more light in by opening your aperture all the way.
You should also raise your ISO higher (1600, 3200, or 6400).
Your shutter speed may still be a little bit slow, which could lead to motion blur in your photos. But if you hold still while taking the photo, and wait for your subject to hold still, you’ll get a pretty crisp photo.
Sometimes you have no choice but to have a slow shutter speed. Why not get creative and make the most of it?
You’ve increased your skill as a photographer!
You’ve learned four things aperture mode is perfect for. These creative effects are achieved by simply opening or closing your aperture:
- Blur your background by opening the aperture
- Keep a landscape in focus by closing your aperture
- Create a starburst effect by closing your aperture
- Improve dim light photos by opening your aperture
Focusing on this one camera setting will help improve your photography and simplify camera setting confusion.
Try these out, and let me know how you go in the comments!